Off to the Races!

23 Feb

The Academy Awards are almost here! Not to brag, but I have pretty much dominated in my quest to see most of the nominees this year. I EVEN WATCHED THE LIVE ACTIONS SHORTS!!!!! I didn’t make it through all the documentaries (okay, I only watched The Invisible War), the foreign films (I tried…thanks, Omaha art film scene), and as usual, I missed most of the animated features and shorts (side note: Wreck-it Ralph is actually super cute. If you are babysitting in the near future, I highly recommend it). Other than that, I feel like I have my best grasp to date on the body of work that will be represented tomorrow night, and I have to say, 2012/2013 was an AWESOME year for movies. I really enjoyed working my way through the nominee list, and I don’t feel like there were many egregious snubs either. And can I just say…how lovely to watch so many films that uplifted and inspired instead of depressed and made you want to slit your wrists when you were done…and that also featured actors besides Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep.

So here’s my very brief recap of predictions for the major categories…if you really care to see ALL my predictions, my official ballot is on Facebook. Yes, I am that nerdy, so let’s all just deal.

argo

Best Picture: Argo                     

One of the first Best Picture nominees to be released last year, Argo has enjoyed a renewed surge in support and popularity in the last couple of months, presumably due in part to Ben Affleck being snubbed in the Best Director category. More to the point, the flawless handling of historical subject matter (the Iran hostage crisis), the excellent pacing, and the heart-pounding conclusion of this movie will all help it win. I also loved that Argo isn’t carried by any one actor’s performance, but succeeds brilliantly as a whole.

lincoln

Actor in a Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Poor Bradley Cooper. Poor Hugh Jackman. They really picked the wrong year to give what may be their best performances to date, because…well. It’s Daniel Day-Lewis. Playing the most beloved president in our nation’s history. In a Spielberg film. If anyone else wins, it will literally be shocking. That being said, I do wish that Cooper and Jackman had a chance, because both are more than deserving for their roles in Silver Linings Playbook and Les Miserables. But Day-Lewis will walk away with his third Best Actor Oscar tomorrow night, and rightfully so. No one else will touch the role of Abraham Lincoln for the foreseeable cinematic future.

silverActress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

I almost just typed “Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone,” a subconscious indication, no doubt, that I feel she has been deserving of an Academy Award ever since that breakout role in 2010. Seriously, guys. I LOVE Jennifer Lawrence. I love the roles she chooses (exception: House at the End of the Street. What was THAT). I love that she defies the Hollywood body-image insanity. I love that she did not ruin Katniss. I love that she makes kind of awkward and inappropriate comments during awards speeches (“I beat Meryl!”). And I think the Academy also loves her enough to give her Best Actress for her role as Tiffany, the slightly crazy young widow without a social filter in Silver Linings Playbook. It’s possible that the 86-year-old Emmanuelle Riva will upset for her role as a dying music teacher in Amour, but I think Lawrence is a pretty safe bet.

django

Actor in a Supporting Role: Christopher Waltz, Django Unchained

Every actor in this category has won an Oscar before, so it’s difficult to say. I would love to see Robert DeNiro win for his role as Bradley Cooper’s remorseful father in Silver Linings Playbook, but I suspect it will go to Christopher Waltz. IMO, he really deserved to be nominated for Best Actor, since he shared almost all of Jamie Foxx’s screen time and delivered the much stronger performance of the two.

1356728506_anne-hathaway-lgActress in a Supporting Role: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

I consider it personal growth on my part that I am much less begrudging about admitting this than I would have been a year or so ago. I’m just not the world’s biggest Anne Hathaway fan, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I resent the fact that losing half your body weight and chopping off your hair for a movie role often fast-tracks you to a Best Actress nomination. Oh, and I am also a music snob and was therefore extremely skeptical that Hathaway would be able to bring anything new or fresh to the MOST FAMOUS MUSICAL THEATER NUMBER OF ALL TIME. Well…miracles do happen. Though they are overused descriptors, fearless and transparent are the two words that come to mind when I think about her performance as Fantine. Was her vocal technique great? Not hardly. And yet, agreeing to a live, uninterrupted, close-up shot for “I Dreamed a Dream” was very brave, and displayed even more vulnerability than Helen Hunt portraying a sex surrogate helping a crippled man lose his virginity in The Sessions (also nominated). She had under 20 minutes of screen time in Les Miserables, but Hathaway deserves the win and should get it.

Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Best Foreign Film: Amour

Best Cinematography: Life of Pi

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Argo

Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Zero Dark Thirty

See you all on the red carpet!!

 

Oscar Nominations: Intial Take

11 Jan

Image So I am 11 days into my no-TV New Year’s resolution, and I can honestly say I hardly miss it! I had one minor slip-up this past Sunday, because I came down with a RAGING case of the 24-hour stomach flu. After spending all morning throwing up and all afternoon sleeping, I felt well enough to migrate to the couch, where I proceeded to watch/fall back asleep to whatever was on my parents’DVR (mainly Guys with Kids and reruns of The Big Bang Theory). I’m letting myself off the hook for that, though. I mean, you know how it is with the flu. Holding up a book seems like an exhausting and impossible task.

On to more important things…

Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday morning! Now, let me just preface by saying this: I am no longer quite as enamored of the Oscars as I was when I started this blog two years ago. Although 2010 was a great year for film (The King’s Speech, Black Swan, being introduced to the amazing Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone), 2011 was, in my opinion, not. I was bored to tears in War Horse, and could not for the life of me see what all the hype over Hugo was for. Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth Salander in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo failed to even approach the brilliance of Noomi Rapace in the original, but she was nominated for Best Actress. This confirmed my suspicion that if you are already a moderately famous actress who has the good fortune to be cast in a major film by a successful director, then the following trifecta will nearly guarantee you a Best Actress nomination: 1) You lose (or gain) an extreme amount of weight for your role, 2) You drastically cut and dye your hair for your role, and 3) You are nude in your role.*

*While this rule does not apply to Meryl Streep, it does seem to hold true for Christian Bale.

As I’ve talked to more people in the industry (and by that I mainly mean my friend Megan, who is studying playwriting and television at USC), I’ve also come to realize that the Academy is mainly comprised of a bunch of old white men who are literally and figuratively in bed with Hollywood’s top production companies, and therefore many excellent films get overlooked or ignored every year. This epiphany dampened my enthusiasm a bit, but I am NOT of the mindset that if something is mainstream it is necessarily bad. Conversely, an independent Norwegian movie shot on a $5,000 budget with a shaky handheld camera does not always a masterpiece make.

But THIS year, I am really, legitimately excited for the Oscars again. There have just been so many good films this year. Here is the complete list of nominations:

http://oscar.go.com/nominees

While I always attempt to see all the Best Picture, Actor, Actress, and Director nominees, I am expanding that this year to include the documentaries and foreign films. I do live in Omaha, NE, so I will probably be thwarted in this quest, but I’m really going to try. Some of the documentaries look absolutely fascinating, especially 5 Broken Cameras and The Invisible War. Watch the trailers here:

http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/5brokencameras/

http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/theinvisiblewar/

This weekend, Dan and I are aiming to see Zero Dark Thirty and The Impossible. Lately, we have had nearly opposite work schedules, so we may have to double-feature it. There are quite a few we haven’t seen yet that we have to fit into just over 6 weeks, so the clock is ticking!

What nominations are you most excited about?

On PA school, Mental Health, and Most of All Netflix

27 Dec

I do not believe in New Year’s resolutions. At least in my experience, they are always, ALWAYS a setup for failure. If anyone out there has actually successfully kept any of their New Year’s resolutions from last year, please, by all means, tell me how you did it. I probably won’t believe you, though. I mean, isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

That being said, the only alternative to resolutions and goal-setting is just doing nothing; maintaining the status quo, or worse, degenerating.

This is something I’ve experienced firsthand over the past four months. On August 20th, I started the physican assistant program at UNMC, a milestone for which I’d been preparing for three solid years. I majored in vocal performance in college, which meant that I graduated without one single science class on my transcript. When I decided to apply for PA school, I started with General Chemistry and General Bio, and took nothing but science classes for two and half years (with a few psych classes thrown in for good measure). I certified as an EMT, I worked as a nurse aid in an assisted living home (not a whole lot in life more humbling than that, let me tell you), and at the end of it all, I was accepted not only into my top choice school, but into another as well (something that rarely happens, I’m told).

How awesome am I?? Go me, right?? Living the dream of all twenty-somethings with a liberal arts degree! The dream that says once we’ve had our fun studying in a field we actually LIKE but then discover upon graduation that it is next to impossible to earn viable income working in said field, we will settle down into a second respectable, fulfilling career that will allow us to pay rent, obtain health insurance, start a 401K, and maybe even procreate someday.

On August 24th, I withdrew from UNMC for “medical reasons,” which means on the second day of classes I started having debilitating panic attacks that left me curled up on the bathroom floor exactly like Izzy after Denny dies in “Grey’s Anatomy.” Panic attacks unlike anything I’ve EVER experienced, including the time I was flying to Seattle and we encountered turbulence so awful that I legitimately thought the plane was going to crash. For those of you who don’t know, PA school is incredibly accelerated (essentially four years of med school condensed into two), so taking some time off to get control of the problem was not an option.

If you think an anxiety disorder is a stupid reason to withdraw from your top-choice school, and by extension, from an excellent, potentially six-figure career, I completely understand and tend to agree with you. Although I like to think I’ve always been a pretty sympathetic person where mental health issues are concerned, I totally remember reading case studies about people with anxiety disorders in Abnormal Psych and thinking, “Okay, that does suck for them, but these people need to pull themselves together. They just need to get outside their heads a bit.”

Well. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall!

I hope you never experience what I experienced during those three days when I was trying as hard as I possibly could to “pull myself together” so that I could 1) stop hyperventilating/crying, 2) leave the house, and 3) go to class. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever gone through. It was probably the scariest thing my poor husband has ever gone through.

But it’s now in the past. Hakuna matata and all that. Don’t ask me what I’ve learned or what higher purpose has been revealed to me through it all, because hell if I know yet. All I know is the panic attacks stopped as soon as I left school. I’ve spent the last four months doing a fantastic job of suppressing any and all thoughts of what happened back in August. I’ve achieved this mainly by watching an insane amount of Netflix.

Let me paint a picture for you…I watched ALL of Friday Night Lights, two seasons of The Tudors, and five seasons of Weeds. Rock bottom was when I watched the whole season of Bridalplasty in two days. Has anyone seen this? It’s literally a reality show where brides-to-be compete for PLASTIC SURGERY.

What can I even say about that???

Basically, I’ve spent the last four months doing nothing. I mean, I do have a job. I go to work. I cook meals occasionally. I read (sometimes. Mostly young adult fiction). But all in all, if I were to tally up the hours, I’m positive I’ve spent more time watching Netflix over the past four months that anything else. And that is seriously depressing.

So! New Year’s resolutions! Wait, I don’t believe in them, right? Well, no, I don’t. But fear is one of the most powerful human emotions, and trust me, nothing will make you more afraid of what is happening to your life than finding yourself on the couch drinking $3 pinot from Trader Joe’s and watching women compete for nose jobs and breast implants.

Therefore, starting January 1st, I resolve to watch no television for 6 months! (If you would point out that I can do this and still be done in time to watch the final seasons of Breaking Bad and Dexter, you would be correct. I mean, let’s be realistic here).

I’m still working on my list of things to accomplish with all those hours previously spent watching Netflix. I’ll let you know! One will probably be posting more frequently on this blog, especially since Oscar season is upon us (which was the whole reason I started this blog in the first place).

So if ANYONE still reads this blog (despite the eternal stretches of time between entries), check back! I WILL be posting more, I promise!

Happy New Year!

My Top 10 Christmas Movies*

5 Dec

So everyone knows that procrastination of one thing often leads to amazing levels of productivity in other areas. Take me, for instance. I’ve got three finals this week and three next week, and today I found myself a) cooking, b) cleaning out the bathroom drain, and c) thinking I should write a blog post. That’s right, the blog that I haven’t updated since MARCH. A) and B)  happen rarely and never, respectively, in case you were wondering. Since I am extremely excited about Christmas this year, I thought a Top 10 Christmas movie post might be fun. And then, as I started to list them off to myself, I realized that I have, in fact, only ever SEEN around ten Christmas movies. I also knew if I just listed off the ten I’d seen as my ten favorites, SOMEBODY was bound to get all, “WHAT?!?! ‘WHITE CHRISTMAS’ IS THE BEST EVERRRRRRRRRRRR!!!” on me and my secret would be out. So there it is…I have never seen A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Santa Claus, or even *GASP* White Christmas.  Here are 10 that I HAVE seen, ranked from amiable approval to borderline-obsession.

10. Die Hard

I know what you’re thinking. Yes it is. It takes place on Christmas Eve and is just oh-so-full of quotable lines.

9. Jingle All the Way

I imagine a now-grown Jake Lloyd sitting in his living room, watching reruns of this movie and crying as he remembers a time before Star Wars: Episode 1 ruined his career.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Any question here?

7. Miracle on 34th Street

I know,  I know, this picture isn’t from the ORIGINAL VERSION, but the remake is the one I remember seeing and loving as a kid.

6. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Let’s all just agree that there has never been a bad Muppets movie, and that this one is the cream of the crop.

5. A Christmas Story

I mean, naturally. Just because I haven’t seen White Christmas doesn’t mean I’ve lived under a rock.

4. Elf

So. Lovable. Everything about it, especially Zooey.

3. The Family Stone

More recent, and Lord knows I’m not usually an SJP fan. But I have watched this one over and over and I always cry. Luke Wilson, Diane Keaton, and Rachel McAdams are all so good. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

2. It's a Wonderful Life

Christmas is never officially over until I’ve watched this. It’s simply too awesome to be cliche. Plus, it always leads to me walking around for days going, “You want the moon, Mary? I’ll throw a lasso around her and pull ‘er down for you” in my best Jimmy Stewart voice which is just, you know, fun for everyone.

1. Love Actually

No contest. Whatsoever. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched this, and it absolutely never gets old. To me, [Love Actually is] perfect.

In Defense of Ceremony

29 Apr

I had intended my next post to be about the recently released Jane Eyre, but decided to postpone that topic in light of today’s highly anticipated wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.

This past week, as the nuptials approached, I started to notice an interesting trend on Facebook. Judging by status updates pertaining to the royal wedding, most were planning on getting up at 4am to watch the event live while partaking of some kind of British pastry made special for the occasion. A few people were hosting parties. The remainder avidly expressed their indifference to what was happening an ocean away (which, if you think about it, is a little oxymoronic).  Some were flat out indignant at the sheer expenditure of the whole thing. I also came across this:

http://www.whyamericansshouldcareabouttheroyalwedding.com/.

As for me, thank God for DVR, because I love a full 9 hours of sleep.

This morning, as I watched the procession of motorcoaches (do NOT call them buses!), the parade of royal family members, and ultimately the procession of the exquisite bride down the aisle of Westminster Abbey to a crescendo of brass and strings, I felt my own heart swell with joy at the majesty and beauty of what I was witnessing.

Why this reaction? I imagine it was shared by millions of people worldwide, but still the question remains. The cynics might argue that it’s simply social conditioning, especially where the female audience members are concerned. See enough Disney movies when you’re young and you will forever be indoctrinated with the notion that fairy tales really do come true. Or is it that as Americans, we’re fascinated by the sheer other-ness of the monarchy, and while grateful that we live in a democratic nation, feel a little wistful that we don’t have anything comparable?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but maybe it has less to do with cultural background and more to do with our nature as human beings. Maybe we respond to pomp and circumstance because of an innate desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps we recognize, on some level, that like artistic creation, the ability to conceive of and participate in ceremony is something uniquely human.

There is little left in our culture that is treated with reverence, and I think we don’t notice that fact or really miss it until we witness an event like the one this morning.

Thoughts?

Redbox a Better Bet in Post-Oscars Slump

28 Apr

Three months between posts is a long dry spell in the blogosphere. It pales in comparison, however, to the cinematic dry spell that inevitably follows the Academy Awards every year, and therein lies the reason for my lengthy absence.  Dan and I have maintained our Tuesday night movie date tradition, but the pickings have been slim. A quick recap:

The Adjustment Bureau

I had such high hopes for The Adjustment Bureau, I really did. The trailers convinced me that I was in for a a mind-bending and action packed Rubik’s cube of a movie–2011’s Inception, in other words. Unfortunately, other than a charming meet-cute between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt (pictured above), the film was ruined for me by a slew of laughable plot devices. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get past the magical Fedoras.

The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but I always enjoy a good legal drama, and if nothing else, it was nice to see Matthew MacConaughey in something besides a r0-co again.

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go doesn’t qualify as a post-Oscar film, as it was actually released back in September. I don’t even remember seeing it in theaters, and I suspect it got lost in the buzz surrounding Fox Searchlight’s more heavily publicized Oscar contenders 127 Hours and Black Swan.  The muted cinematography, coupled with powerfully understated performances by Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, and especially Carey Mulligan resulted in a lyrical and unique film that deserved a lot more credit than it received. On an interesting side note, I read the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro afterwards, and I thought the story translated better on screen than it did in print. How often does that happen?

Source Code

Confession: I will go see any movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal. Ever since he rocketed to fame in October Sky (awful, I know) he has been number one on my celebrity crush list. Since my opinion of Source Code is no doubt shamefully biased, I won’t say much about it other than it held my attention the whole way through…although whether that was due to the piercing blue eyes or the intriguing premise is anybody’s guess.

Up next: Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre. This film deserves an entire post to itself, as I can’t say enough about it in a short recap. In the meantime, watch the trailer…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IFsdfk3mlk

Il sole splende sempre in Italia

29 Jan

I’m not a smoker. My friend and I bought cigars when we turned 18, because we could, but since I couldn’t quite master the not-inhaling part, I got nauseated and haven’t smoked since. Few people smoked at Wheaton, so I had a pretty rude awakening when I moved to Pittsburgh. EVERYBODY, and I do mean everybody, smokes here. At first I hated it, and then suddenly this fall, I had a sensory revelation. As if someone had flipped a switch in my brain, the smell of outdoor cigarette smoke, always there as I walked between classes on campus, was suddenly pleasant to me. The scent invoked warm associations that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, until one day it occurred to me.

It reminded me of this…

and this…

and this…

…because everyone knows, if there’s one place where people smoke more than in Pittsburgh, it’s Europe.

January in Pittsburgh means waking up every morning to a sky more gray than the day before. It means ugly, everywhere you look. It means feeling completamente pazza when you start wishing for another snowfall just so the disgusting black slush will disappear, at least for a little while.

Right now, the thought of eating gelato at a sidewalk cafe while soaking up that magical Italian sunshine sounds like heaven on earth. And yet I know that if I were to get on a plane tomorrow, sit down at that cafe and order the best chocolate gelato in Tuscany, it wouldn’t be the same.

Because this is what I really think of when I smell cigarettes.

Two weeks between college and Real Life. A lot of pasta. A little too much grappa. Way too much gelato.

Cinque amici, per sempre.